The conventional view seems to be that the future of HR software involves a whole lot more of the same. No matter what they say and how hard they say it, they are not different.

The conventional view seems to be that the future of HR software involves a whole lot more of the same. No matter what they say and how hard they say it, they are not different.

The conventional view seems to be that the future of HR software involves a whole lot more of the same. The things that are being described as innovative are more like hip-hop sampling than actual new tunes. It’s the same old song with a little scratchy-scratch from the new DJ. Throw in some social media and you’ve got the extended dance version.

The triumph of conventional wisdom can be seen in the ‘new offerings’ that dominate the HRTechnology Conference expo floor. Virtually all vendors will be offering ‘cloud’ services, claiming “innovation”, touting ‘analytics’, celebrating ‘mobile’. All of them will be pooh-poohing the difficulties associated with implementation. They will all downplay the risks associated with getting involved with them.

They are going to ask you to believe that their spin on the same things everyone else is saying are the ‘really different ones’. You can rest assured that your inability to tell them apart comes from the fact that there is little difference between them.

They do not differentiate because bite they can’t. No matter what they say and how hard they say it, they are not different. You’ll discover that they have a natural tendency to insist on their differentness when you push just a little bit, No evidence. Just a bucket of insistence

That’s because the era of process automation is coming to a close. Really, can you think of a single process that still needs to be automated? All of the innovation has been used up.

Be particularly careful when you hear the word ‘integrated’. More often than not, it means ‘strung together with bailing wire and bubble gum’. Integrated tools generally have a miserable time handling data within the system. If your boss is hounding you for actionable data, stay away from these guys.

In the industry today, there are four kinds of software projects:

  • Tweaking Known Bugs
  • Satisfying Customer Requirements
  • Moving the System to a new platform
  • Generating a single code stack from scratch

Of all of these approaches, only the single code stack approach is inherently interesting. A single code stack means that the data elements are consistent between the silos that the software covers. That means that interesting data is easy to make and that new ways of operating are possible. Workday, Cornerstone, Ceridian and PeopleMatter all offer single stack solutions.

So, what would innovation look like? Here are some ideas:

  • Talent Management That Includes WellnessAnd not the namby-pamby wellness stuff.
    Meaningful talent management can not ignore the health, diet and fitness habits of the people it covers. It is idiotic to think that one manages people without regard to their strengths, weaknesses, and proclivities.
  • Time, Attendance and Workforce Planning That Includes Location and Communication DataThese human inventory management systems are the only inventory management systems that don’t include clear location data.
  • Talent Management That Includes Real Time Assessment DataWhat good is a single point assessment?
    Assessment matters most when navigating the actual manager-employee relationship. Every Performance Review, Work Assignment, Transfer or Promotion should include working personality data for the manager to use. Real talent management systems help managers manage.
  • Talent Management Tools That Harvests Social MediaBetter insight into your employees means coping with more data. Where most HR focuses on judging the employee, knowing your folks better is the key to better performance.
  • Tools That Understand How Employees Create ValueHave you noticed that the administrative stuff is free from the messy parts of relationships.
    Nothing about the current crop of tools help employees and their managers get better at what they do. This one requires extensive R&D.
  • HR Needs A Job Designer’s ToolkitHR lost its way when industrial psychologist were abandoned. Today, jobs are created without regardful their effectiveness or improvement. HR, who should be the holder of this insight, is a laggard.

If you are in the market to understand what’s good and useful, here are some guidelines:

  • Avoid Anyone Who Claims To Be Innovating. That should eliminate a big chunk. Moving old processes to new screens is anything but innovative. Innovators innovate. Pretenders talk about it.
  • Avoid People Who Want to Give You Content You aren’t the only one swamped in mediocre cap. Don’t take anything that isn’t on the web or on a flash drive. You’ll either leave it your room, trash it in the airport or pay to take it home where you will keep it in a pile.
  • Look For Small Vendors Who Aren’t Saying What Everyone Else Is. These are the people who are really adding value. The look different because they are different. These teams have usually looked at a single piece of the puzzle very thoroughly.
  • Stay Away From The Shiny New Stuff. None of it is proven. Wait until someone else has paid for their learning curve. Being an early adopter is expensive.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open for the Absence of Clutter. You’ll recognize it because there’s almost nothing there. Busyness in design, whether its the booth or the product is exactly what you don’t want. If they say a lot, it’s because they don’t have much to say.

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